So, Why Are the Rangers Defensemen Struggling?

Under John Tortorella's defensive system that preached collapsing, cutting off passing lanes and blocking shots with reckless abandon, the Rangers defensemen (minus Del Zotto) thrived. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said under Alain Vigneault.

The defenders have been slow to adopt to his new scheme which stresses outnumbering the opponent in the defensive zone, recover and start the transition or clear the puck out of danger.

And here's the proof according to Steve Zipay at Newsday

"Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, for example, each is minus-7. Michael Del Zotto is minus-6, Ryan McDonagh minus-5, John Moore minus-4 and Anton Stralman minus-2. Last season, Staal was plus-4, Girardi minus-1, Del Zotto plus-6, McDonagh plus-13, Moore plus-9 and Stralman plus-14."

Here's Vigneault on his defensive unit's latest struggles in St. Louis (via Zipay)…

"I thought our 'Ds' were fighting it a little bit," Vigneault said. "On two of the goals, that was a simple read by the 'Ds'; I'm not quite sure what happened. Those are reads that good players can make and they're good defensemen, so we'll find out on Monday."

…to me the issue seems to be the defensemen are getting caught puck watching. Because this new system calls for the defenders to outnumber the opponent to regain possession in the defensive zone, they've been way too concerned about when they're going to slide over to the puck and are ultimately either going too early or at the incorrect moment, leaving the front of the net wide open. It doesn't help that the forward who is supposed to fill the empty void isn't getting there in time, leading to a number back door layups this early season.

…i've also noticed that the defensemen have been way too aggressive when the puck enters the zone, especially the man on the opposite wing, who's focused on the puck carrier instead of his man driving to the net as seen here by Marc Staal Saturday night…

…and the mistakes aren't just relegated to the defensemen, as the forwards are having their own issues trying to decipher when is the appropriate time to outnumber the opponent as seen by Derek Stepan on this goal in Anaheim when he unnecessarily goes behind the net to aid a defender leaving the slot wide open…

…i think once the defenders get more comfortable with when to jump the puck to create the mismatch AV is looking for in the defensive zone, you'll see a much more sound defense going forward. Then we'll just have to worry about the Rangers goaltenders actually making some saves.

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Kevin

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